Research and Clinical Innovation

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Research and Clinical Innovation

The emergence of living donation as an option for patients in need of organs revolutionized the transplant field and saved many lives. However, with transplant increasingly recognized as the treatment of choice for many diseases, the demand for donor organs continues to soar. For 12 consecutive years since 2008, more than 100,000 patients have ended the year on the waiting list.

University Health’s Transplant Center and other programs are exploring more options for their patients, including improving organ preservation and further expansion of living donation programs.

Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, director of the Transplant Center, believes the next 10 years will see important breakthroughs in organ preservation. “How do we convert organs that are maybe too fragile to transplant because of instability of the deceased brain-dead donor? How can we convert a liver or a kidney that we might not otherwise transplant into an optimal organ to transplant?” he asked.

Improving organ preservation is one of the most important areas of focus for expanding access for transplant patients. To answer this need, a collaboration formed in 2019 to build the Center for Life at University Hospital.

The Center for Life is a new and specialized facility created to help increase the recovery of organ, eye and tissue from each donor. It will enable families to begin their grieving and plan memorial services in a more timely manner, while also saving and changing more lives through the gift of life.

“Imagine if you can intervene through perfusion, regenerate the liver cells and then transplant that organ?” he asked. “It’s not far away, and our liver specialists, including Dr. Fred Poordad, are doing significant clinical trials on the treatment of fatty liver. It may very well be that therapeutics will be developed that can help us in this quest to expand the number of deceased donor grafts to transplant.”

Beyond clinical research, the other factors that will expand the donor pool will be improving education on the possibilities of living donation to the general public and, of course, human altruism - those special people who step forward as donors despite having no stake in the outcome themselves.

In 2019, more than 7,300 transplants were made possible by living donors. It set an all-time record. Living donation is still the quickest way to transplant for a person in need - learn more about becoming a living donor at